More women on the labour market
Gender equality is often discussed as a rights issue. Which is right because it is.
But it should also be discussed in the way that was done at the conference I attended two days ago: as smart economics. Because it is.
Women are needed in the labour market as well as men. Their competence as well as the working hours needed making sure that we can generate the financial base for i.a. an ageing population. Demography speaks it clear language all over Europe including Poland.
And here I believe that the participation on the labour market is around 57% for women compared to around 71% for men.
The conference – co-organized by i.a. the Polish Insitute ISP, the Congress of Women, the European Commission and the Nordic embassies – focused on two issues: how to get more women into company boards and to increase their participation on the labour market.
On the last issue much of the discussion circled around family policy for obvious reasons.
High quality affordable day care for children is essential – that was a recurrent theme communicated from the Nordic participants sharing their experiences. One of them being our Swedish State Secretary for gender equality Amelie von Zweigbergk (who actually worked in Poland 10 years ago at ZUS as expert in an EU-financed project on social insurance).
Interestingly enough, very much attention was also given to the role of fathers and men. I made some comments on that in my introduction and it was highlighted repeatedly in the final panel discussion. For the moment mothers or future mothers are, it was said, sometimes seen as less interesting in the labour market since employers expect them to be absent more and more often than men. A more equal distribution of family responsibilities will, hence, influence the opportunities for women to develop their potential in the labour market.
And Amelie von Zweigbergk added the encouraging experience that equal families actually have proved to be more sustainable, splitting less often than others.
Men are gaining from gender equality as well as women.
The Polish Minister Agnieska Kozłowska-Rajewicz participated during the whole programme with clear messages and a clear agenda. One of her points of departure was the fact that economic independence is an important element of human freedom.
Which it is.
Gender equality is about freedom and rights as well as smart economics. And these two aspects are connected. As was well illustrated this Friday.